Taking turns celebrating Christmas for Christians in the Emirates

This content was published on December 28, 2021 – 15:29

Bassam Madhoun

Dubai, Dec 28 (EFE).- Although the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has more than one million Christian residents, it only has 76 places of worship for non-Muslims, so George and Salwa, a Lebanese couple Maronite, he had to wait until December 27 to celebrate Christmas rituals in his church.

The Christian churches of the Arab country organize themselves each year on these dates to receive the faithful on different days and time slots, depending on the branch of Christianity to which they belong, their country and their language.

This year, George Naoufal and Salwa Barish chose the sermon in Arabic on December 27 at 8:00 p.m. in the Church of San Francisco in Dubai, one of 11 Christian temples in the city, attended by worshipers of 150 nationalities with masses in 17 languages.


“You cannot go to church at any time like in Lebanon. Here it is specified according to your work and your commitments. In addition, there are masses in English very early and in Arabic after midnight, which is impractical.” most of the time,” George explains to Efe in front of the temple.

The couple shares the Christmas mass, which lasts about 45 minutes, with dozens of people and at the exit they exchange congratulations with the other participants, take photos and light candles to celebrate this Christmas several days late.

“On Christmas Eve, we celebrate with a Muslim and two Christians from England and Lebanon,” says Salwa, who is grateful for the welcome and tolerance she has received in the United Arab Emirates.

“We are in a country that respects and welcomes all religions and in record time I have already made friends with all religions and we share the celebration of this holiday. I am happy about that,” she says in lighting a candle.

The Emirati Minister of Tolerance, Nahyan bin Mubarak al Nahyan, recently revealed that the number of Christians residing in the UAE already represents one ninth of the country’s inhabitants, having exceeded one million people.

The first Christian church was built in 1965 in the current capital of the country, Abu Dhabi, which in 2019 received Pope Francis who celebrated a massive mass attended by Christians residing in the United Arab Emirates, mainly from the Philippines and from India.


George and Salwa are Maronites, an Eastern Catholic community that follows the Pope from the Vatican and is the majority in Lebanon, although it also has scattered followers in other countries such as Syria, Jordan and Egypt.

He has lived in Dubai since 2007, where he works as an engineer and together with his wife they dream of having a Christian family and settling in the emirate, as they do not plan to return to Lebanon in the short term due to the difficult economic situation. circumstances in their home country.

The young couple is looking, he says, to expand their small projects in this country which “brings them security and peace”.

In their house, located far from the ultra-modern center of Dubai, they installed a traditional Christmas tree and a nativity scene: “My husband and I decorated the house, prepared dinner and Christmas carols, and entertained friends. I prepared a three-dessert menu,” says the 33-year-old woman.

For the decoration, he says he has visited several Christmas markets in the emirate, where he has lived for two years and recently opened an e-commerce company.

“I wanted to celebrate the holidays with my family in Lebanon,” laments George, from Kawkaba, a southern town, “but it wasn’t possible, so we lit the Christmas tree, set up the nativity scene and tried to celebrate Christmas this year with our friends in Dubai.

The Lebanese says he lives “the total religious freedom that the UAE ensures and guarantees”, due to the preponderant presence of Christians and other communities living in the Muslim country, where everyone can practice their rituals, as long as they waits his turn. EFE



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